Stacy and Kyle Tucker are in the business of speed. As the owners of Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE), they're constantly working to develop new wares to help our cars go just a little bit faster and ride just a little bit better. Stacy told PHR: "We are different than most companies. With five engineers on staff, we engineer our products to improve the handling and the ride quality at the same time." Stacy and Kyle want to do more than just sell speed parts that look good on paper. They want to test them in the real world to make sure the performance matches the sales pitch. And as ex-GM suspension engineers, they have the credentials and experience to pull it off.
Given the frenzied popularity of the '69 Camaro, many of the parts DSE makes are targeted toward this model. Even parts that will eventually be offered for other cars are made for the '69 first. For this reason, choosing a '69 Camaro was a no-brainer. This Camaro is Stacy's personal ride, which she chose because it was in good shape from the start (the body was straight and the paint was good from the previous owner). The Camaro now resides in DSE's Mooresville, N.C. shop, where it's been subject to a long list of modifications.
The original suspension and drivetrain have been scrapped. In its place, DSE tubular upper and lower control arms supersede the stamped steel stockers while DSE's Koni shocks and 2-inch-drop SBC springs help nail the stance. A 1.125-inch front DSE sway bar keeps the landscape flat and a narrowed Ford 9-inch differential (equipped with DSE's Quadra Link four-link suspension) has the necessary beefcake to hold up to rigorous testing. The rear coil-over system is also fitted with DSE-Koni shocks and is a vast improvement over the old leaf springs. Stacy told PHR: "The Quadra Link gives an increased level of performance that provides a more precise level of handling. Its output is much more nimble and crisp than a leaf-spring suspension. We don't believe that you need to sacrifice ride quality to improve handling." DSE also installed one of its mini-tub kits so the Camaro can easily accommodate the massive 18x12-inch Fikse wheels wrapped with 335/30R18 Michelin tires. In the front, the 18x8.5-inch Fikse wheels are running 245/40R18 Michelins. To stop the Camaro quickly, Baer 13-inch disk brakes are mounted on each corner of the vintage F-body. The old slow-ratio gearbox was ditched for a Saginaw 600 power-steering box.
To replace the lackluster factory drivetrain, DSE started with a GM Performance Parts 383 HO stroker engine. Not much was done to the already potent crate engine. "We chose this engine because it is representative of what a lot of our customers use. It is very reliable and is easy to drive," remarked Stacy.
A GM Hot Cam kit was added for a bit more power and the mill was topped off with an Edelbrock intake and Demon 750 carb. To fire the fuel, DSE went with a complete MSD ignition system. Spent gasses are handled by a custom-fabbed 3-inch exhaust system with Borla mufflers. Keeping the small-block running cool is the job of a Be Cool radiator with electric fans. DSE's radiator closeout further helps the air to pass through the fins. Out back, the stock fuel tank is replaced with a DSE narrowed stainless steel tank, which allows the rear to accommodate the larger rear wheels. Power from the engine transits a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed transmission from Classic Chevy and a Centerforce clutch aided by a Hurst shifter. It then spins through the driveshaft to a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear end where 3.89 gears and a Detroit Truetrac posi unit send it to the pavement.
The interior is mainly stock, but DSE found a way to give it some special touches. To keep track of the vitals, they installed their dash insert and filled it with Autometer gauges. To send input to the steering, a Budnik GTO wheel was hardcoated black and bolted to the column. A Vintage Air system keeps everyone chilled and the stereo was left stock since that's not what this ride is about. Instead, a VBOX data acquisition system was wired into the Camaro. This allows performance to be measured at Stacy's many outings to Maxton/Laurinberg airport where most of DSE's testing takes place. Maxton has become DSE's personal proving grounds. They use it for slalom, skid pad, and quarter-mile testing. This allows them to objectively and subjectively evaluate their new products. For safety, DSE decided to tackle some of the car's various systems. For rainy days, their seven-speed Selecta-Speed wiper kit was installed and the front headlights were upgraded with their Bright-Driver bulbs. The dim rear incandescent taillight bulbs were removed and in their place went a sequential LED taillight kit from American Auto Wire.
While performance is at the top of the list, Stacy knows there's nothing wrong with looking good too. The Camaro started life as an SS model, but DSE converted the Camaro to an RS-style nose by installing DSE's new electric headlight door kit. Billet front turn signals, rear tail lights and side marker bezels from Marquez Design help the Camaro stand out in a crowd, while DSE's billet hood hinges look more like artwork than something to hold the hood open.
In true hot rodder fashion, Stacy's Camaro is never really going to be done. It will continue to evolve over time and will undoubtedly play host to many more goodies from the gearheads at DSE. In fact, by the time you read this, the front suspension will have been replaced with a new top-secret replacement subframe and maybe a few other prototyped goodies. As for Stacy, she loves to cruise the '69-when she can pry it away from DSE's other engineers.
Stacy says, "My favorite aspect of the car is that you can jump in it and blast around a road course, drive it cross country on the Power Tour, drive it to dinner and ice cream, or, my personal favorite, show up all the guys on my way to a day of shopping at the mall." In case you didn't notice, all of those aspects involve actually driving the Camaro, and that's what we love to hear.
"DSE takes the idea of bolt-on...
"DSE takes the idea of bolt-on performance to a higher level. This isn't some guy welding up junk in his backyard and dumping it on the Internet..."-Johnny Hunkins
"We are different than most...
"We are different than most companies. With five engineers on staff, we engineer our products to improve the handling and the ride quality at the same time."-Stacy Tucker